Essay on The Death of Identity in DeLillo's White Noise

Essay on The Death of Identity in DeLillo's White Noise

Length: 2920 words (8.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Death of Identity in DeLillo's White Noise


In addition to addressing the premonitory electricity of death, the title of Don DeLillo's White Noise alludes to another, subtler, sort of white noise - the muted death of suburban white identity. College-on-the-Hill is not only an elite academic promontory, but also a bastion for white flight in which Jack Gladney's family has taken refuge. Instead of John Winthrop's clear City-on-a-Hill morality, DeLillo presents us with J.A.K. Gladney's muddled postmodern inheritance of J.F.K.'s civil rights legacy. Racial identity no longer demarcates a simple binary between whites and Native Americans, but complicates a nation in which all races stake a claim towards American nativity. Jack's inability to classify the Other in obvious racial terms feeds back into his own identity crisis; unable to gauge what he is not, he is left without the tools necessary to understand what he is. This anxiety of faulty racial organization leaves Jack with America's preeminent homegrown product, consumerism, as a cultural machete for cutting through swaths of identity. But consumerism, exemplified by the supermarket's position as the novel's locus of societal reflection, is a philosophy too scattered and massive to equip Jack with any ordered understanding of race. Furthermore, any insight consumerism might yield is negated by its production of a confusing strain of commercial colonialism. The most feasible "solution," although the novel's persistent chaos denies any clear answers, is for Jack to accept racial hybridization and regard the world not as white noise and black clouds, but as shades of gray. This diminishes his anxiety for a need to identify others and, consequently, him...


... middle of paper ...


...d, Edward. 'Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies'. Modern Literary Theory: Reader. Eds. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh. London: Edward Arnold. 248-258. 1992 (1983).

Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel. E Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library. 1956.

Online Sources

A Don DeLillo Page.  April 1998.  Berkeley.  March 1998.   http://hass.berkeley.edu/~gardner/delillo.html

Interviews with Don DeLillo.  April 1998. Berkeley.  March 1998.   http://haas.berkeley.edu/~gardner/ddinterviewes.html

Jackson, Jon.  A letter from Don DeLillo.  25 April 1998.   http://www.panix.com/~iayork/Literary/Whitenoise/WN10.html

Sippey, Michael.  White Noise on White Noise. 25 April 1998.   http://www.theobvious.com/noise/toc.html

White Noise.  April 1998.  Berkeley. March 1998.    http://haas.berkelye.edu/~gardner/whitenoise.html

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Fear of Death in White Noise by Don DeLillo Essay

- In the novel, White Noise by Don DeLillo, Jack Gladney tries to think that he know his wife Babette. He tries to disguise his true self in order to gain strength through his false identity. He tries to control Babette’s thoughts by telling her she is supposed to act a particular way because he is slowly losing control and the struggle of who is more afraid of death. Jack constantly is trying to face his fears of death but learns that his wife has similar fears. He tries to gain power over his death by trying to murder someone....   [tags: identity, kill, fear, death]

Powerful Essays
628 words (1.8 pages)

American Consumerism: Don Delilo’s White Noise Essay

- In Don Delilo’s, White Noise different themes are displayed throughout the novel. Some themes are the fear of death, loss of identity, technology as the enemy, and American consumerism. The society represented in the novel views people as objects and emotionally detached from many things. Death is always in the air and trapped in peoples mind. The culture that’s represented in the novel adds to the loss of individualism, but also adds to the figurative death of the characters introduced in the novel....   [tags: fear of death, hitler studies, identity]

Powerful Essays
1908 words (5.5 pages)

Essay on Death and Dying in DeLillo's White Noise

- Death and Dying in DeLillo's White Noise      Among other things, Don DeLillo seems completely preoccupied with death and the arduous task of living with the knowledge of death in his novel White Noise. Acceptance of our finite, fragile existence over time is certainly not a phenomenon unique to a single civilization or historical era. Rather than discuss the inescapable mortality that connects all humankind with broad, generalized strokes, DeLillo is concerned with the particular (peculiar?) late Twentieth Century cultural and psychological mechanisms that attempt to define, recast, or obscure the relationship between the self and death....   [tags: White Noise Essays]

Powerful Essays
786 words (2.2 pages)

Identity Crisis in Don Delillo's White Noise Essay

- Don Delillo's White Noise is a novel set in twentieth century Middle America. The story follows the life and journey of Jack Gladney, a teacher of Hitler studies and his family through their lives invaded by white noise, the constant murmur of American consumerism. The narrative follows these characters as they struggle to live life distracting themselves from their sense of reality. White Noise explores a host of character's deep underlying fears and uncertainties that keep them from discovering and revealing their true identities....   [tags: White Noise Essays]

Powerful Essays
1180 words (3.4 pages)

Television Language of White Noise Essay example

- Television Language of White Noise Television, in our culture, is by far the most dominant medium of communication and stimulation. The fears, the joys, and the horrors of the world are all channeled through television. As seen in the Rodney King police beating videotape, television can incite in a population sheer and utter rage and dark hostility. That same footage; however, can also detract from the very anger it incites. After countless times of viewing the footage, in a never-ending Simulacrum of the same grainy image, the masses became desensitized to its graphic violence....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
1720 words (4.9 pages)

White Noise Don Delillo 's Characters Essays

- ... The Gladney’s will not get this kind of comfort in their death and this reinforces their fear of it. Just as important as the television having their full attention is the “white noise” of the TV. When nobody is watching but it is always there, and always influencing. This graph from SJ Insights shows how media consumption has increased, but ad exposure has not increased as much. Maybe there are not many more but they are better, and we do not even know they are there. I cannot remember the last time I saw a commercial with the “By Mennen” jingle, but it is still in my head....   [tags: Mass media, Advertising, Marshall McLuhan]

Powerful Essays
1375 words (3.9 pages)

Perception of the World and False Images from White Noise Essay

- Perception of the World and False Images from White Noise Don DeLillo's award-winning novel White Noise takes the idea of the supremacy of false images to the extreme. Through various scenarios, such as the airborne toxic event and the Dylar dilemma, DeLillo critiques contemporary society's over-dependence on false images. The characters in the novel that exemplify this over-dependence appear humorous on one hand, yet tragic on the other. The humor comes from the novel's characters behaving like cartoon characters who continually get hurt, but keep coming back for more....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
2141 words (6.1 pages)

Theme of Death in White Noise Essay examples

- White Noise Death is probably the most feared word in the English language. Its undesired uncertainty threatens society’s desire to believe that life never ends. Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise tells the bizarre story of how Jack Gladney and his family illustrate the postmodern ideas of religion, death, and popular culture. The theme of death’s influence over the character mentality, consumer lifestyle, and media manipulation is used often throughout DeLillo’s story.      Perhaps, the character most responsive to death is Jack Gladney....   [tags: White Noise Don DeLillo Death Novels Essays]

Powerful Essays
1099 words (3.1 pages)

Can Society Influence One's Identity? Essay

- Does it come from within which makes us who we are, or is it our environment that molds us. The debate is on. With the comparison of “Story of an Hour,” written by Kate Chopin and “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, the idea of society influencing an individual’s identity is put in to picture through different scenarios. Society has rules to be followed, deviance is frowned upon, and obedience only causes repression for the individual who then loses their individuality. The freedom to be ourselves is an important one, and is one worth standing up for....   [tags: Literary Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1008 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on The Power of the Family in White Noise

- The Power of the Family in White Noise   Don Dellilo's protagonist in his novel "White Noise," Jack Gladney, has a "nuclear family" that is, ostensibly, a prime example of the disjointed nature way of the "family" of the 80's and 90's -- what with Jack's multiple past marriages and the fact that his children aren't all related. It's basically the antipodal image of the 1950's "nuclear family." Despite this surface-level disjointedness, it is his family and the "extrasensory rapport" that he shares with them allows Jack to survive in his world....   [tags: White Noise Essays]

Powerful Essays
1150 words (3.3 pages)